Three Texas Republicans stand firm against Jim Jordan in second House speaker vote

U.S. Reps. J.K. "Jake" Ellzey, R-Waxahachie, Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, and Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth joined other Republicans to again block Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan from the speaker's gavel. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa Usa Via Reuters | The Texas Tribune, Michael Brochstein/Sipa Usa Via Reuters | The Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan failed to woo any of his detractors in the Texas delegation in his bid to become House Speaker on Wednesday, despite efforts in the state to push for their support.

U.S. Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, Tony Gonzales of San Antonio and Jake Ellzey of Waxahachie all voted against Jordan’s bid again during the second vote to select a new speaker since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California was ousted. Granger and Gonzales voted for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise while Ellzey voted for fellow fighter pilot veteran Rep. Mike Garcia, R-California.

Jordan failed to secure the gavel in Wednesday’s vote where he received a total of 199 votes, short of the 217 he needed to secure the gavel. Most of the 22 Republican votes against Jordan — two more than Tuesday’s vote — went to long-shot candidates and were largely in protest against the far-right Ohioan. One vote, from Iowa’s Mariannette Miller-Meeks, went to Granger.

"This was a vote of conscience and I stayed true to my principles. Intimidation and threats will not change my position," Granger said in a post on social media after the vote.

The vote continues a strained drama that has left the House leaderless for over two weeks. On Tuesday, Jordan failed for the first time to receive enough votes to secure the gavel the day when 20 Republicans threw out a host of other names. All of Texas’ Democrats voted for Jeffries in both votes.

Jordan opted to only have one round of votes Tuesday, giving himself time to try to rally more supporters. Republican operatives in Texas also got to work, trying to sway the dissenters.

Kelly Perry, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, said grassroots organizers and several county party chairs in Gonzales’ district were going after his donors and pressuring groups to rescind their endorsements, including the influential Texas Farm Bureau. Gary Joiner, a Farm Bureau spokesperson, said the group “endorses candidates solely on their record and engagement on agricultural related issues” and has no plans to change its endorsement for Gonzales, who “has a 100 percent voting record with the Texas Farm Bureau”.

The SREC previously censured Gonzales over his voting record supporting certain bipartisan legislative efforts and for refusing to support a House rules package brokered by far-right members and McCarthy in January.

“We went crazy,” Perry said, describing the party’s reaction to Gonzales’ Tuesday vote. “The Republican Party of Texas censured him for a reason, and this is the reason.”

Gonzales’ office did not respond to a request for comment. Ellzey declined to comment until "this thing's over."

Perry, who lives in Gonzales’ district, said similar efforts were underway in Ellzey’s and Granger’s districts.

But some of those efforts appeared to backfire, with moderate Republicans less inclined to support Jordan following such aggressive pressure tactics. Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, chair of the House Freedom Caucus that Jordan co-founded in 2015, predicted before Wednesday’s vote that there would be fewer members supporting Jordan’s bid.

Within the Texas delegation, Jordan never enjoyed full throated support from Republicans. When House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was running against Jordan, the majority of Texas members voted for Scalise. Several members switched support after Scalise dropped out of the running last week.

“We can't play political games with this anymore. We have a world on fire,” Austin Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday. “Our enemies are emboldened by this. … Chairman Xi always says democracy doesn't work. I don't want to prove him right.”

McCaul had initially voted for Scalise in a private conference vote but voted for Jordan on Tuesday after Jordan told him he would be open to pairing aid for Ukraine with funding to assist Israel — a priority for members across the ideological spectrum.

McCarthy managed to claw his way to the speakership in January after 15 votes, starting with 19 members opposing him. But he was in a different position than Jordan, who faces a steeper uphill battle. McCarthy had risen through the traditional ranks of party leadership having previously served as House Minority Leader — the natural heir to become speaker when Republicans took control of the chamber in January. Committee assignments and House rules had also not yet been determined, allowing McCarthy a host of bargaining chips to buy support.

Jordan rose up in the party through his megaphone more than his titles. He currently chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which is famous for its hearings where members often behave theatrically in the hopes of going viral.

Still, that has its own power, with Jordan’s position within the far right allowing him a greater platform to negotiate with the wing of the party that has often stopped the House’s actions.

“I think the strength that I see with Jordan is McCarthy couldn't control the Freedom Caucus, you know. Scalise couldn't control the Freedom Caucus,” McCaul said. “Jordan is the only one that can.”

Democrats were horrified by the idea of a Jordan speakership. His time in office has been mired in controversy, from his role in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election to his support for government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018 to his alleged knowledge of sexual abuse on the Ohio State wrestling team (Jordan denies knowing about the abuse).

“Any Republicans who vote for Jim Jordan today should never be recognized as a moderate ever again. You have sided with destruction. You have sided with divisiveness. You have sided with extremism,” U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, posted on social media Tuesday.

Escobar advocated a “bipartisan governing coalition” — an idea that has been floated among members for days that would require buy-in from members of both parties. But there is no obvious candidate for speaker who could attract sufficient support across the aisle.

Members of both parties have discussed granting Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry of North Carolina power beyond simply presiding over the election of a permanent speaker. Shortly after McCarthy’s ouster, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said in a text that he would consider supporting McHenry who he described as “conservative but smart & orderly.”

Gonzalez added Wednesday that he doesn't see any path forward than Republicans asking for Democratic help and that Jordan was unacceptably too far to the right to get any support. He said he was happy to see more Republicans defecting from Jordan's camp Wednesday.

Gonzalez added Wednesday that he doesn't see any path forward than Republicans asking for Democratic help.

The speaker election comes as Congress needs to vote on whether to advance further aid for Israel and Ukraine, as well as pass appropriations legislation to keep the federal government running. Federal funding runs out in mid-November, meaning failure to select a speaker and pass some kind of spending legislation by then will result in a government shutdown.

— Grace Yarrow contributed reporting.